Montrose volleyball coach Shane Forrest took last year off. It wasn't for self-reflection; it wasn't because she was tired of the game.
She had to be with her family. Specifically her brother, Rick Edmondson.
Rick was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about two years ago and Forrest knew that her focus needed to be on her family. She didn't want it divided so she stepped away for the 2017 season.
She returned this season and brought a new focus with her. October is typically a month aimed breast cancer awareness with teams often hosting a Pink Night to raise awareness and a lot of times funds to contribute to breast cancer research.
Forrest decided that her team was going to focus on the life-changing event that hit close to her home.
"This last year the job was still open at Montrose so I decided to go back after a year of coaching which was necessary and really good to have that time with my brother," Forrest said. "But when I came back I decided to change our awareness from breast cancer as many of the programs do across the state to Alzheimer’s just to take the opportunity to get that out there.”
Rather than going with a Pink Night, Montrose opted to host a Purple Night for Alzheimer's awareness. Due to the disclosed battles that Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and his wife Annabelle, Forrest reached out to the team who sent purple rally towels for the event.
But Forrest was unprepared for perhaps a more significant gesture. When the Indians' opponent, Fruita Monument, rolled into the gym, the team was donned in purple, too.
Fruita coach Bob Richardson and Forrest have known each other for 15 years and have developed a friendship off the court. It was the least he could do for a friend.
“That meant a lot," Forrest said. "Bob and I have a good friendship and a good rivalry on the court. When Fruita walked into the gym, that was very touching to me and brought tears to my eyes that they rallied behind the cause as well. That was awesome. It was a really nice gesture to help us recognize and bring awareness to it.”
For Richardson, it was an obvious move to make. When Forrest took her leave for the 2017, he was hoping she would be able to return. When she did and decided that an Alzheimer's awareness night was in order, he didn't think twice about he and his team showing up to put on a unified front.
“I thought it was important," Richardson said. "We’ve been doing the pink nights for several years now. This was a little more personal obviously to Shane and to me because of her brother. Our program and her program are very similar. Similar in our coaching styles, we’re friends but we’re competitors. We want to support Shane, in particular, and Alzheimer’s and things that she was supporting. "
The Wildcats won the match in five sets, but every player came off the court with something more important than a win or a loss. As both teams supported the Alzheimer's awareness cause, they also learned that while in competition, separate teams can unite for more important life causes.
“I think it’s important to teach the kids a sense of community and supporting one another," Richardson said. "Particularly people that are going through hard times. To be aware of situations around them, that they might be related to someone or knows someone who is going through difficulty in their family. I just think that’s an important thing that sports can do, build community not only within your team, but within your league and with other teams.”
Forrest echoed the feeling. While grateful to Richardson and his team for supporting a cause close to home for her, she was also keen to the lesson that was taught to her players and the members of the community.
“I think it helps the kids realize that there are things bigger than volleyball; things bigger than winning," she said. "Life happens. To be able to sit back and acknowledge that and support other people through their struggles is much bigger than a game.”
But at times, it can be that game that is the best rallying point to help through those struggles.